When I travel, I like to eat. And I like to eat well. Not necessarily at the fanciest or most expensive places; rather, I want to try everything, savor the best the town/country/region has to offer, and learn something new about a culture while I stuff my face. Much of my trip planning research is done around food. I have learned the hard way that not planning well in advance will set you up for crappy meals, long waits, or just general indecision about where to go for dinner.
Sidebar: My friend and I spent every night of our trip in Marrakech debating where we should go to dinner, scanning dozens of Trip Advisor reviews for what we thought would be the best meal. Our last minute research turned up some decent options, but we spent 1-2 hours each night trying to pick a place and see if there were tables available. We could have saved A LOT of headaches had we just selected a small list of restaurants to choose from in advance. This type of planning was critical with my mom – she is famous for her “I don’t care, where do you want to go?” attitude and I did not want to get caught up in that while in Vienna or Paris.
I’ll also admit that I am a foodie. I document my meals so I can remember the dishes later, I follow chefs and restaurant news, and I love talking about restaurants/food as much as I love talking about travel. I love making reservations and agonize over the right place for the right group. I live for the satisfaction of a restaurant well chosen, and I die a little inside when my planning goes wrong. And settling for a mediocre meal when I know I could have been eating something better elsewhere? Absolutely not.
I don’t think I truly realized my foodie traveler ways for what they were until I traveled with my mom this winter. Armed with a thorough list of cafes, patisseries, restaurants, and wine bars, I dragged my mom all around Paris seeking out our next amazing meal. If she was bothered by this, she didn’t let on. She was an incredibly good sport, even when our treks ended not quite where they were supposed to (see trekking to 11e Arrondissement for Cave du Septime only to see it was overflowing with wine drinkers and turning the corner to check out the new wine & cheese shop next door). And when my careful plotting resulted in an amazing meal, like our night at Frenchie Wine Bar, the other misses felt like distant memories. (Tip: Arrive 15-20 minutes before they open)
My favorite way to plan around food is Google Maps. I star everything. This makes it easy to find random spots when you are wandering around a neighborhood and need a place to stop, and it also helps with logistics when you are planning in advance around other plans/reservations during your trip. I spend a lot of time on Foursquare (better for some locations than others) and travel blogs/Instagram looking up places in a destination. I have found The Infatuation and Eater to also be terrific resources for restaurant selection in big cities like Paris or London. With my mom in particular, she doesn’t eat meat, so there was A LOT of menu research in advance to make sure the places I was choosing were mom-friendly (especially in Austria).
I also HIGHLY recommend doing food tours when traveling, especially in mid-size cities. Thus far I have done tours in Prague and Lisbon; these have been highlights of my travels and I tell everyone about them. (I am still in contact with my tour guides from both of these trips!) It’s a really fun way to learn about a city and culture, meet new people, and try dishes that you may never have encountered on your own. When traveling solo, doing a food tour was a way for me to interact with others after spending a lot of time alone (especially at meals) AND I was able to try a lot of new dishes which was hard when I ate alone and couldn’t order too much for myself.
Some of my favorite travel memories are tied to food experiences, and for some of those early planning was key to making it happen. Many of these restaurants require booking way in advance and may be a splurge, but I think having one of these occasions on your trip (if you can afford it) is totally worth it.
Do you also travel to eat? Choose your destinations based on food? What are your favorite resources for finding the best a place has to offer?